Management Is Hell


By Lieutenant General William G. Pagonis

with Jeffrey L. Cruikshank

HBS Press - 248pp - $24.95

General Gus Pagonis is a war hero with a great story to tell. As head of U.S. logistics in the gulf war, he managed the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops and their weapons and supplies in one of history's most massive military deployments. He pulled it off without a hitch. In his memoirs, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf depicts Pagonis as a miracle worker.

Unfortunately, Pagonis is no storyteller. "I don't like to write a great deal," he admits in the preface--and one can only conclude that co-author Jeffrey L. Cruikshank doesn't much like it either. What should have been a gripping tale is one dull, disconnected read.

Pagonis arrived in Saudi Arabia in August, 1990, with a handful of deputies and little else. The first night, he slept by a runway. The next night, he found a sedan to use as an office/bedroom. From there he built a network that handled 550,000 troops, 1.3 billion gallons of fuel, 122 million meals, and 31,800 tons of mail. Not to mention all those tanks, helicopters, and artillery shells.

Despite the occasional colorful story, Moving Mountains is burdened with irrelevant detail and an avalanche of acronyms. "The TAACOM exists as an echelon above corps (EAC) unit, and generally operates to the rear of the conflict," the authors inform us, "with the COSCOM concentrating on forward actions."

The book promises lessons for executives, and there is good raw material here: Pagonis' "35 system," which requires that reports be squeezed onto index cards, so only key information gets through. Or his morning "stand-up" meetings, where the absence of chairs forces short, sweet decision-making. But Pagonis didn't get the help he needed to relate his Army style to business. To see that task accomplished, turn to The McKinsey Quarterly management journal, issue 1991, Number 3, for a thoughtful, concise interview with Pagonis.